With National Apprenticeship Week rapidly approaching, we shine the spotlight on Martin Bennett, a man who has swapped life as a tax inspector for the great outdoors and, by doing so, showing that age is not a barrier.
A former tax inspector who thought he was too old to study an apprenticeship has swapped spreadsheets for skiing, accounts for archery and computers for caving.
Fifty-four-year-old Martin Bennett worked in the Civil Service for 30 years before leaving London for Somerset after he was made redundant. “I saw the advert for the Outdoor Instructor apprenticeship through South Devon College but thought they wouldn’t look at me because of my age. But I thought there was nothing to lose, and the feedback would be useful,” he explained.
He now works at the Mendip Activity Centre getting hands-on experience as an outdoor instructor, and has one day of training a week.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I left school; I just needed to get a job to pay the rent,” he explained. “I applied for a few jobs and took the first one I was offered. I thought I’d do it for six months or a year; I never thought I’d stay for 30 years. But my previous career was steady and stable and relatively well paid.”
There are apprenticeships available across many sectors, including the more well-known such as construction, health and care, but there are more surprising ones available too, like sea fisher or chartered manager.
The theme of this year’s National Apprenticeship Week (Feb 6 – 12) is Skills for Life. The week will reflect on how apprenticeships can help individuals develop the skills and knowledge for a rewarding career and help businesses develop a talented workforce equipped with skills for the future.
Martin is now one of the hundreds of apprentices studying through South Devon College and benefitting from earning as he learns.
Matt Harbour, Vice Principal at the college, said, “Apprenticeships are essential in developing the skills our economy needs to grow, offering employers a pipeline of future staff who have the training and qualifications required to hit the ground running.
“There’s a common misconception that apprenticeships are just for younger school leavers. This year we’ve seen a 6% growth in the number of adults enrolled on an apprenticeship with us which is fantastic, but there is still a long way to go in raising awareness amongst adults that they can earn whilst they learn across a wide range of sectors, from entry-level, right up to degree level.
Anyone interested in pursuing an apprenticeship should talk to their existing employer or contact their local training provider, who should be able to support them in finding a suitable apprenticeship.”
As well as changing careers Martin is getting used to a different work pattern and learning new skills. He’s also in his last year studying for a degree in Environmental Science, so he’s got a lot to fit in.
“I’d never done these sorts of activities before. I enjoy caving, and I never thought I would. I enjoy paddle sports, and now I have a skiing, rifle shooting and archery qualification, so I can now take sessions.”
Martin says there are some similarities between his former and new career. In both, there are rules to follow. But now, apart from taking some groups for activities, he has fewer responsibilities.
“I’m really enjoying it being paid to ski, climb and paddle things. Whatever age, I would recommend it.”
When his apprenticeship finishes in August, he hopes to stay on as an outdoor instructor.
“I wish I’d done it sooner,” said Martin. “I’d have enjoyed my lifestyle more being outside.”
Photography courtesy of Jim Wileman.
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